December 25, 2012 - Updated: 6:11 a.m.
In the heart of winter we see light and we give light.
Recently I traveled the back roads of the north country. It was past dark and the land seemed to be held by a sense of utter calm. The car tires hummed on the highway, and snow was white over the fields. The cloud cover overhead appeared distant and opaque. There were no stars in the sky. On my way to a gathering of strangers I felt unsettled by the magnitude of the darkness. I drove alone in a vast tract of hills and swales and when I rounded a turn I saw a startling vision. Strung with white lights from base to highest limb, a single giant oak stood like a torch in an open field.
Life can be miraculous.
The season of joy reminds us sometimes quietly, sometimes with fierce abandon: Give light! We all need a little light, and in fact, the light we know most intimately is the light we find in each other. The corollary to light in our everyday lives is love. The great ones from our collective history give voice to this transcendent understanding: Hate cannot cast out hate, only love can do that (Martin Luther King Jr.); How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (Elizabeth Barrett Browning); Love is a real fact of life (bell hooks); Love is stronger than death (Proverbs); Love is something eternal (Vincent van Gogh).
At times, even or perhaps especially in the season of joy, we face heartache, loss, and desolation. When we touch the better angels of our nature we heal the brokenhearted. We bind up our wounds. We ask forgiveness. We make amends. We give, and we forgive. The winter passage reminds us of how beautiful the world can be when she puts on her garment of praise. In the dark of nights that sometimes isolate us or leave us inconsolable, the practice of love knits us together again and returns us to one another whole, and holy.
He is the author of “American Masculine” and “Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity.”